In our customer profile, we interview Keegan Gerhard, D Bar’s chef and owner, to find out more about his restaurant’s recent expansion to San Diego. Learn why he loves open kitchens and how he balances running a successful restaurant with teaching cooking and baking classes.
TriMark R.W. Smith: D Bar originally opened in Denver in 2008 and expanded to San Diego in 2012. What primary considerations drove your decision to expand, and how did you settle on San Diego as your second location?
Keegan Gerhard: My wife, Lisa Bailey, and I have always loved San Diego. I lived in San Diego when I was training to be a pro cyclist and I chose to be a pastry chef as a way to make money while I trained. I was working in San Diego when I truly developed my love for being a pastry chef, so it has always had a place in both our hearts. Plus, who can beat this awesome location in the wonderful Hillcrest community.
RWS: What tips can you share for successfully opening a restaurant?
KG: I don’t know if it ever goes perfectly, but as much pre-planning as possible is always helpful. It’s always a work in progress and nothing will be perfect, but you just have to be a doer and get things done. We have an amazing network of people around us and they really helped make it happen for us. We jumped right in with two feet.
RWS: Occasionally D Bar offers cooking and baking classes. How do you fit these special events into the day-to-day demands of operating the restaurants?
KG: I love to teach others about all the things I find exciting. It’s just another way to get the word out and bring people in our doors in a fun interesting way. We just make the time because it’s fun and informative.
RWS: The D Bar mission states that it “is a destination dessert dining experience created to put people at ease.” In what way do you make sure to fulfill that statement every day?
KG: We always strive to be better than yesterday and not as good as tomorrow. In everything we do, it’s about making a conscious effort to go the extra mile for our guests. Everyone loves to feel special, and we hope to create that one special moment in a person’s day, month or even year.
RWS: D Bar offers both sit down menu options and to-go bakery items. How do you manage the expectations of both types of patrons?
KG: We put things on our menu that we love and inspire use. So far, that has worked for us. We try and add little twists to everyday things and make them special and unique to D Bar. Following that motto helps us to naturally meet expectations all around. And of course, we also listen when people tell us. If they want more macaroons, fun cupcakes, etc., we listen and try our best to accommodate!
RWS: Open kitchens are becoming increasingly popular. What made you decide to put dessert preparation front and center with your dessert bar?
KG: My wife and I came up with this concept and thought it was fun and unique. Desserts are an art, and half the fun is seeing the process. It’s like when you go to a sushi restaurant, that’s the prime seating up at the bar. Watching professionals in their element, that is exciting to us!
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